Pixies, scones and scrambled eggs

I believe in cravings. That is, I believe in giving in to them. There are those few times a year where more than anything else, I want red meat. Or chocolate. Or whisky. Often those cravings are a little dark, a little dirty. There’s something compelling me to that flavor, to that feeling. There’s little satisfying as a craving met and satiated. The first bite scratches the itch. The second scratches a little more. And by the third, you’re can really start to appreciate what you’ve been lusting for.

And on the flip side, there’s little so disappointing as not meeting that craving. Of allowing yourself the indulgence and the bite in question misses the mark. When you get really close, but still miss the mark. The dish becomes a waste of time, a nuisance. With every bite whispering, “I am not what you’re after.”

This morning I was in spinning class. Mondays are the hardest. The class is long, it’s early, and I have to convince myself to stay to the end from minute to minute. There are a few things that get me through. Sheer will, the music or, like today, promise of breakfast. I made meyer lemon-current scones last night. I picked up fresh eggs over the weekend. All I saw in my head was perfectly scrambled eggs with a toasty scone. And coffee. On the walk back from class, all I could think about was scones and eggs. And coffee. And the pixies. I turned the corner to my street with these visions of breakfast and strains of frank black in my head and it was all I could do to contain myself and not run down the block to get started.

But I contained myself. And in a quick ten minutes I sat down to a toasty scone, perfectly cooked scrambled eggs finished with a splash of cream, a steaming mug of San Jose El Yalu (coe #3, for those keeping score) with Trompe Le Monde playing probably a little too loud for 7:15 in the morning.

I didn’t care.

It was good. It was right. It was exactly everything I wanted. Everything I had in my head for those last 6 minutes of class when I was about to throw in the towel. Everything I was craving so intensely realized all at once. Damn good for a Monday.


Can't not want

When I was living in Portland the first time, during college, shopping in the city was often lackluster at best. Shopping for anything, really, it just wasn't fun. No little districts that hadn't been trounced through before, nothing new to discover. It was either smelly hippie head shops on Hawthorne or the prohibitively expensive boutiques of NW 23rd. Those few times a year I found myself flush with an extra $100, I was hard-pressed to find somewhere to spend it. One weekend, my friend Jenny and I made a sojourn to the outlet mall in Troutdale, Oregon. We hit the road with visions of wonderful discounts and fantastic finds. But soon after a driving tour of the parking lot, past Dress Barn and Bass shoes, we were a little let down. Though my kitchen didn't need a thing, I followed Jenny into Mikasa to see if there was anything worth bringing back home.

I'm not a big fan of yellow. When I wear it I look sickly and though it's the number one color to paint a kitchen, I don't think it has a lot of business being around food. At least that's what I believed for a long time. But then I saw them. The yellow dishes. They were a nice, modern bright set of yellow dishes that just said happy. They looked like the perfect way to start a morning. I could see the bright yolks of an egg over easy picking up the color of the dishes. Cheerios would live up to their namesake in a cheery yellow bowl. For no good reason, I loved them.

But I didn't buy them. I thought what I thought was better of it and didn't take home the set. I had dishes. Fine, functional white ones that did their job with little fanfare. An entire set of yellow dishes wasn't something I needed, they were just something I wanted.

But there's something to be said for want, because even after I left, I was thinking about them. I would look them up online to see if they were available. I might have even visited another Mikasa to admit I made a mistake, that I shouldn't have left them. But I never found them again. Later I picked up a couple of sweet yellow bowls with a French cereal logo on them, and I like them a lot. But I know it's not the same.

But these dishes, they taught me a lesson. There's nothing wrong with wanting. With listening to that little voice inside you that for no good reasons says, "Go on. Get them. If you love them, you should have them." I'm not saying indulge every impulse. That would be ridiculous (and pricey), but there's something to be said for surrounding yourself with little thing that make you happy. Make you smile. For no good reason at all.

So why now? Why the yellow dish story? Simple. I have a lot of blogs I keep up on. Some of them food-based, some design based. And some that bridge the gap between the two. I came across these on notcot today, and I got that feeling. The feeling that having these little guys in the kitchen would make me smile, give me a little joy.

I'm not one for kitch or for cute. Though I have two cats I don't own anything with a cat on it. I look at cuteoverload a few times a day, but I don't go further than that. Still, these geese measuring cups want to be mine. And for the price, they just might have to be.

That is, unless some charitable reader wants to buy them for me first.

They're over at Anthropologie.com. In the home section. A nice place to browse, as it happens.


Lost posts of 2007

Throughout the year last year, I took pictures that were intended to develop into posts. For all kinds of reasons, they didn't make it. Here are the pics, plus a summary of the posts that never were. Enjoy.

Dinner with Drew, April
Back to back in an afterthought of a kitchen, we crafted the perfect comfort food at a time we both needed some comforting. Risotto with prociutto and peas, torn crusty bread and cypress grove chevre, caprese. Chinon.

The First Dinner, July
When I start seeing someone, I want the first meal I cook for them to be really awesome, but simple too. This one fit the bill: salt-and-pepper pork loin with shallot reduction, roasted cauliflower bites. A watermelon salad with ricotta salata and fresh basil bridged the divide between salad and dessert.

30 minutes or less, October
When I got my pizza stone, I had grand visions of perfect pies. The first one realized those dreams. The second one, though it tasted fantastic, left toppings and burnt bits all over the stone. Now it takes up space in my oven.

The Best Bread, November
Late to the bandwagon, Mark Bittman's no-knead bread became a staple this year. Janet and Brian shared the first loaf, and now it's a mainstay at every family dinner. Make some fresh butter to pair. Knock everyone's socks off.

It's been a huge year of cooking. I've realized my inner baker more than I knew, picked up a hand-me-down KitchenAid and some intensely beautiful carbon-steel knives and copper pots. My challenge for next year? More risks, more original recipes, more dinner parties. And, of course, more writing.


Comfort in the Familiar, Part 1 and 2

Last week I’ve been spending some time with an old friend, and the conversations consistently led to life-defining metaphors. The smallest observation seemed suddenly revelatory. It came to a head over two bowls of udon, atomically hot and served in an iron pot that only kept the soup from ever cooling down. It was an awkward production, coaxing noodles from the hot pot to a smaller dish to cool, each of us getting smacked in the eye at least once by some wayward broth. We cleared the bowls of their contents bite by bite. A morsel of chicken, a mushroom or two, and a whole lot of noodles, until finally, just the cloudy broth remained in the bowl. I was nearing exhaustion, but then he said simply, “broth is good.” And it was. And he went on to observe that broth is never the same from one bowl of soup to the next. Ingredients, how long it takes to cook, how well the ingredients meld or conflict. The broth is always different. And this one, this was a good broth.

And it was one of those simple things that lent itself to metaphor. The broth of the day. The elements coming together in just the right way to make for the perfect soup, something to savor and taste and take in. To notice and enjoy. And you’re not sure what makes it good that day, or what you could possibly do to have that same effect the next day and it doesn’t matter. It’s out of your control. Just enjoy.

But again, it was one of those days where the broth was good. The day was good. Dynamics that you didn’t expect to come together in just the right way at just the right time to the point you end up with something, well, bigger than the sum of its parts.

Part 2.
It’s not surprising to me to find metaphor in food. It’s there all the time. It’s what brings me back, makes me consider again, to taste again, to be aware of the things I love and to savor them even more. And it’s been awhile since I gave a lot of thought to my food. I’ve been relying on the defaults a lot. Hawaiian pizza from Giorgio’s, chicken chow mein from Andy’s, satay and salad rolls from the thai place that left a menu on my door a few months ago. The holidays left me uninspired by food. It felt like work.

It started with cookies. I initiated a cookie exchange with some friends. I threw down Phefferneusse and Double Ginger Snaps. And then I suggested cookie decorating as part of a party. Ginger and Vanilla roll-out cookies. Then more Pheffernuesse plus ginger lemon cookies for the family. And then there was the Stollen production.

For Christmas dinner I made cauliflower soup with crispy shallots, fresh bread and butter and creamed spinach. And that morning I kicked off the day with Gougeres. The Gougeres made another appearance at New Year’s Brunch alongside Buttermilk Current Scones and Lavender Shortbread.

I’ve spent the last three weeks in a fine dusting of flour.

But it’s done. And I can’t think beyond the next meal. And I feel oddly guilty that I don’t want to cook. I truly believe that it’s so important to eat locally and seasonally. Well, for me, it seems that pizza is in season. Burritos too.

I’m not a New Year’s resolution kind of person. I’ll be at the gym long enough this year to see then January rush die down. I’m loathe to take my cues from a calendar. But this January is a bit different. With a relationship ended and a new job starting Monday, my habits are about to change. And that’s fine. I can swing myself out of this food rut and pick up some inspiration somewhere. The new job lands me a flat mile away from the Ferry Building, which has sent me stuttering about food many times before. I can’t wait to dig in.